I start as early as November with my Christmas mantra of “no toys”. I get physically tense thinking about having more toys around the already overrun house. My defenses creep up and I become an un-livable defensive assault of “No.”
I have a theory. Men remember bad things and try to head them off. Women forget traumatic events and repeat them.
My first piece of evidence. We have four kids. FOUR. That is a full three kids above what a man’s memory would allow. If I had to volunteer to pass anything larger than any orifice through that same orifice. Nope. Not happening. Fool me once shame on you. Fool me three more times… Shame on selective memory.
I have a selective memory. It is so selective that I don’t even know what it is going to choose or discard. I do know the trauma that makes it through the subconscious filter. The unmitigated pain of a Lego is childs play compared to Involuntary Tutu Slide into Man-Splits on a Hardwood Floor or Tripoli the three legged horse stabbing you with his nub. Have you ever stepped on a metal ball bearing in the middle of your heel and put all your weight down bruising the inside of your foot? These are the nightmares.
We bought a kitchen and chair table set thinking that we were adults and it was high time we have something respectable in the house. Our one mistake was the fact that the chair legs angle outward towards the floor and are so easy to stub a pinkie toe that we have stopped using the chairs. They are hidden around the house and, just like the elliptical machine, they are now for stacking shit we don’t feel like putting away right now, or ever.
There is so much danger from our reckless abandon that we have a gate into the kitchen and we keep everyone out. Kitchen is off limits because it is the safe haven. It is the home base in our hide-and-seek from the kids. If we make it from the bedroom to the kitchen without getting tagged then we are safe and can eat what we want for 45 seconds. But this gate is its own problem, it hangs socks and shoe laces in the exact perfect place where you are past the gate and bringing that last foot up and over. Your body is in motion away from the gate. You are holding hot soup and Faberge Eggs and since the gate hates nice things it grabs your sock and sends you head first to the floor. Of course, you will try to correct and look like drunken Bambi dancing on ice before you smash into the floor landing on each and every pointy plastic toy around and probably breaking two “favorites”.
It was one evening around Thanksgiving that I had stepped on a few toys on my way to the bedroom and was swearing under my breath. Supermom is staring at a list she is working on and asks, “What should we get the kids for Christmas?”
I answered, “Not a Damn Thing!”
I remember these traumas and I stress about it happening again. But the cuteness of little girls is Daddy Kryptonite and my Grinch heart usually grows two sizes. We go Christmas shopping and write to Santa and even feed the reindeer. We wave goodbye to the elf on the shelf and open the presents. The whole happy song and dance.
Then we start slipping out of the holiday hangover. The girls have more toys than the living room can hold. There is a doll house that is three stories with thirty five pieces of soon to be missing furniture. The little one has a box of foam block with round pieces. She also got a box of Lincoln Logs, LINCOLN LOGS! There are flash card games scattered across the floor. A knock-off version of the board game Trouble (Frozen style) is sitting on the abandoned train table where the wooden train and its tracks used to be. Where is the fifty piece train set? Fifty eff’n pieces!
Jane is starting to whine because we can’t put up the 12×18 tent that Santa got her because it is raining and winter outside.
Don Threeto, I realize, is oddly quiet behind the couch with a suspicious trail of Hersey kiss wrappers leading to her feet. She smiles with a wide eyed and fudgy brown face and says, “I LOVE CHOCOLATE”. I bet you do kid.
Prima does interpretive dance with the wrapping paper until it is all cleaned up and then she gets on the new iPad (that was not brilliant by the way). Don Threeto got a tablet too and it has one free demo of a game and she is just punching the screen so I don’t know if that was a waste or not. There is also a Zoomer which is a robotic dog that listens to your commands and learns your voice. He is your “real best friend” according to the box. Don Threeto doesn’t speak clearly enough for him to understand but she does know that in America if your language isn’t understood you just yell LOUDER and point at him violently. I come back ten minutes later and they are all on iPads and Zoomer has peed in the corner and is whimpering.
This post-Christmas waste land of a living room had more toys spread out than a megachurch nursery. MacGyver could build a Saturn V rocket with the random things lying around. If we put up the tent then it might look like the first scene in the movie Congo where the mutant apes destroy this campsite and leave no survivors. It feels like they may be recreating that actually.
So all day we wade through the churning mass of mixed up parts and eventually the kids give in and go to bed. Supermom and I head to the kitchen for a stiff water on the rocks. I step on what I though was a microfleece blanket and hear a sharp plastic crack.
“Hang on. Let’s take bets on what I just broke.”
“I’m saying horse.”
“That’s a good one but ….nope looks like the board game Trouble.”
“Underdaddy! They just got that!”
“Like they could actually play with the two remaining game pieces out of the original sixteen. Seriously where are all the pieces?”
I notice something plastic and purple under the edge of the couch and pick it up.
“What is this? It looks like a flat egg with a little plastic tab on one side.”
“I don’t know but here is another.”
I then notice that poor Zoomer has been tortured mafia style. We are holding his ears. This fifty dollar miracle robot has been de-eared in under three hours. I guess Threeto thought if he wasn’t going to listen to her he wouldn’t be able to listen to her sisters either.
I stand over a smashed Trouble-bubble that will never see its family reunited. A game called Memory with pieces that no one seems to remember where they went. How ironic I guess technically, that is a loss.
I stand beside a three story doll house shoved full of foam blocks and Lincoln Logs but strangely void of all the plastic tables and chairs and cups and shit that should be in a doll house. The dolls still have heads but their clothes are another story. I think the dog ate a boot. We will find that in four months with the lawn mower.
I see parts of the train set scattered around but God knows if we will ever find all the right pieces to make “the one on the box”. What do you do with kids who say, “My transformer is broken!” and you say “That is a piggy bank not a transformer, well was…. Don’t let your sister eat that glass. We are on probation at the ER, they have a three strike system.”
This happens every year. It is the Gettysburg of gifting. More toys die in a single day than the rest of the year combined. We count the dead and file them in a mass grave. As we assess the damage and hand each other things like legs and ears, we start to laugh. It is the dark and morbid laugh of defeated parents who know that this same event will happen again.
All I can hear is the heavy metal song “Let the bodies hit the floor, let the bodies hit the floor, let the bodies hit tha’ FLOOOOOOOORRRRR!”
Current Talley of Broken or Lost Things
Hello Kitty Headphones, Zoomers Ears, Assorted Lincoln Logs and plastic Cowboys and Indians, Half of the Frozen game set with memory cards, flash cards and some type of spinner game that is irrelevant because the spinner is broken; Monster High Dolls clothes and accessories; Trains for the actual train table set; a large portion of the candy that was in the stockings (Lady Bug shoved some of the chocolate in her pants and melted it into different shapes); DVD boxes were stepped on and cracked; clothes were stained by various liquids, hair coloring chalks have been broken; Threeto’s tablet only plays sound when headphones are plugged in (I kind of like that actually); the tent has a shattered fiberglass support pole that we will have to duct tape every time we put up the tent; Bingo set may be missing some numbers from the ball cage; two fluffy pens for Hello Kitty diary sets are completely crushed and the kids are chasing each other and poking with the shards; and can we stop lying to ourselves and just buy Grey-Brown Playdoh?
Do you want to know what the icing on the cake is? Christmas night after I took the electronics away they asked to go to a Grandparents house because they were bored. What? Bored? You should be exhausted. Construction crews don’t get that much demolition work done in one day.
For those of you who lose the Christmas war, this post is for you. You’re welcome.
-Underdaddy to the rescue.